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Home is where the EDAR is

Some of you may have missed a tragically underreported, heartwarming sports story out of Melbourne, Australia, recently. So momentous was this particular soccer game that I feel it’s important for you to know about it.

With a symbolic 5-4 victory in the championship game Tuesday, war-ravaged Afghanistan slew mighty Russia to claim the title at the World Cup … for homeless people. The annual event, which raises awareness of the problem, is open only to players who live on the streets or are in drug or alcohol rehab.

After all the years of war, when the Commies tried to conquer the proud Afghan people, it’s fitting that Afghanistan should prevail in this battle of the have-nots and the have-even-less. It’s like that story in the Bible where homeless David slays homeless Goliath with a sling he has to give back after doing the slinging.

The Afghans went undefeated for the week and beat Russia another time in pool play. Notably unmentioned in the BBC News article on the tournament was the homeless American team. It seems even our most indigent citizens are lousy soccer players, too.

In the battle of obscure African nations, the homeless ladies of Zambia took down Liberia, 7-1, to claim the first-ever women’s World Cup, and the Scottish men toppled England in a game that must have warmed the cockles of what used to pass for the heart of noted Scottish revolutionary Mel Gibson.

The article was mum on what the winners would receive, but one can guess that it won’t be a home. That would present an odd conflict of interest, wouldn’t it? If the players were rewarded for their victory, they might conceivably move up in the world and cease to qualify as homeless. I’m guessing the better you play, the less they give you. God forbid you should score a hat trick. You’d probably end up naked as well as homeless.

Hopefully the fate of not just the victors but all the participants will improve as a result of the tournament, which supports soccer projects in more than 60 countries, with more than 25,000 homeless participants. I found it unintentionally ironic that the news story talked about how the Russian team would arrive “home” in St. Petersburg later on Tuesday. Thanks for playing, boys. Now back out into the snow with you.

It can be safely assumed that the tournament’s also-rans have no incentive to return to their native lands after the games. Last year 15 players abandoned their teams and disappeared into the streets of Copenhagen, Denmark. This year 15 players have applied for asylum to try to stay in Melbourne. Hard to blame them. If you didn’t have a roof over your head, would you rather be in famously cold Russia, explody Afghanistan or sunny Australia?

Fortunately, I have a solution. Next year, the tournament organizers should hand out EDARs to the winners, and if possible to all the losers, as well.

EDAR, which stands for Everyone Deserves a Roof, is the brainchild of Peter Samuelson, a film producer and philanthropist from Los Angeles. The clever contraptions, which first hit the streets about three months ago, are mobile shelters that fold up into what look sort of like hotel rollaway beds. When folded out, the EDAR looks like a roomy two-person tent in an unobtrusive green color.

The EDARs come equipped with pouches for collecting empty bottles and cans, or whatever a homeless person collects to pay for full bottles and cans. But the best thing about them is the price. With mass production, the price could drop as low as $400, which would make them easy to purchase for homeless people everywhere.

Now, I realize the name of this column is “I’m With Stupid,” but I want to stress that I am completely in favor of both homeless soccer and the EDAR. There is a stupid part of this story, however.

Amazingly, but hardly surprisingly, even the EDAR has its critics. Police fear that the shelters could be considered dwellings, and the inhabitants could expect a measure of privacy. The fear is that if police couldn’t search the EDARs, they’d start becoming hot beds of drug use and prostitution.

It should be easy to compromise on this issue, though. Let’s just consider the EDARs not dwellings and let cops search them so we can get them out there to people who need them. Besides, if they’re not dwellings, team Afghanistan could receive them as prizes and still qualify to play soccer.

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Todd Hartley

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12 2008

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